Stay anywhere long enough and you can become a part of the furniture – At least that was the way of the old Civil Service where people worked in the same department, the same office even, for 40 years until the cleaning lady would dust them off and a senior member of the department would be wheeled out to present them with their retirement clock. When I joined the Post Office it was very much like that, being still attached to the Government at that time. I can remember some of the older members of staff at my first workplace being awarded their Imperial Service Medal for 40 years in the company. Retirement often followed soon after as, having reached 40 years of service, they were close to their maximum pension entitlement.

Times have changed – The Imperial Service Medal, a last bastion of days of Empire, only just survived into the mid-1970’s. From then, retirees from the newly fledged BT could expect a handshake from a senior manager and a collection from the lads (there were no female engineers at that time). They might also get a gold painted piece of old Strowger equipment mounted on a plinth (again, something from the lads).

Reductions in staff combined with changes in working practices have seen the old workgroups of the past disappear. Sometimes we can spend weeks on end without ever seeing a fellow member of the team. Of course we do get to chat each morning on a team conference call but, for many of us, that is the limit of human contact except for the occasional team meeting. With all the changes in the world, including an Act of Parliament that prevents companies from automatically retiring people at 60 or any other arbitrary age, we now get a recognition of achieving 40 years of service. It takes the form of a Clock – No longer a termination point in your service – And a plastic card loaded with £500 to spend as you wish. Oh, and there is a certificate printed from whatever printer was handy at the time!

Retirement remains a number of years away for me and many like me – The actions of the greedy, self-serving, banking scum; most of whom still don’t get it, or indeed, care about the effects of their actions on the ordinary working person, have played their part in that. I can’t forget that these were the same people who, pressing for the privatisation of the Post Office Telecommunications during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure, were claiming that us Engineers were lazy – now the lie has been exposed and we all know where the laziness truly is – it was money for nothing but lies working in the city, especially when the government of the time espoused Greed as the mantra of success, at least that is how it feels to victims like myself. I can remember seeing these rip-off people in the champagne bars all over the city from lunchtime onwards as I went about my work. I’d like to say things are changing but it’s hard to see where – And I’ve seen serial killers show more remorse 😦

But, marrying and having children later in life must also carry the price of working a bit longer – so I guess I’d started planning for this long walk to retirement a few years back anyway – that doesn’t let the parasites of the banking area off their hook of responsibility.

It was said of the old Post Office that retirement was a death sentence – many survived only months after retiring. The loss of the friendly social environment at work was held to be partly to blame. BT is a very different place now and I will be looking forward to taking my pension when I do retire, for many years. In the interim, I can enjoy my work which continues to be interesting and varied 🙂 Do I feel old… Most certainly not!

So what did I get with my 40 years service recognition?…

As told above, a Clock – a crystal glass clock with an effigy of the BT tower inside. And I spent the money on a nice DAB Radio for my office and a Samsung Note 10.1 Tablet (which I typed most of this rant on while my son used the main PC for his homework – at least that’s what he told me). I wonder what the bankers spent their pittance for 40 weeks service on?

Should I feel Old or should I feel bitter – probably the latter! But having got it off my chest, I probably feel neither and tomorrow’s another day. And, yes, an Imperial Service Medal might have sweetened the pill – slightly 😉

From My Archive I Choose…

T is for Telephone Exchange…

The first Automated Telephone Exchange in the UK, located in Epsom, opened for service on 18th May 1912. This post celebrates 100 years since that event. The first generation of automatic telephone exchanges utilised Strowger electro-mechanical switching equipment; of which later examples can be seen below in a photograph taken at Lords Telephone Exchange in the late 1980’s.

Strowger Equipment

Lords Telephone Exchange is a fairly standard example of a London telephone exchange building…

Lords Telephone Exchange

…I worked in the building between 1974 and 1992 when I moved onto other work in my never-ending tour of duty for BT. Located nowhere near the cricket ground of the same name, the building was originally known as Cunningham Telephone Exchange. The exchange was built in 1937 and at one time housed two local telephone exchange strowger units, a tandem exchange (used for routing of calls only), a manual exchange and a directory enquiries bureau. A new building was added at the back in the early 1970’s to house new TXE4 local units, the first of the new semi-electronic type to enter service in London. The curved building behind the main building is the staircase / fire escape for both and was often referred to as the conning tower because of its shape. The original building suffered a fire in the mid-1990’s. All the old equipment was removed from the main part of the building. Modern equipment to provide local telephone services is now housed in a fraction of the space required for the older equipment types and much of the building has been sold off to become offices and apartments.

Both of these photos can be found on the Geograph website along with many others taken by myself and other Geographers, all accurately located geographically and often with detailed descriptions. Please pop in there and take a look 🙂